Forestry funding has been collapsing steadily over the last decade. Public funding of enhanced silviculture has yet to provide more than temporary programs. Now is the time to think differently says WSCA.
Ailing Forestry Funding Will Be WSCA First Priority
Solving the perennial problem of paying for enhanced forestry and environmental restoration will be the top priority for the WSCA after strategic discussions held at the association’s annual conference in Victoria last week. Publically funded forestry has only been able to establish temporary funding regimes over the past three decades in British Columbia amounting to a policy failure that now sees public forestry investments at their lowest levels in decades. The current Forest Investment Vote which includes an estimated $84-million to be spent on land-based activities will not put a dent in the burgeoning demand to tend plantations and restore eco-systems across the province said contractors.
The WSCA will begin a series of strategic meetings this week in order to create a forest stewardship policy proposal to take to government in the midst of the ongoing strategic review of forest sector policy. Stating that there is little point in repeating the mistakes of the past contractors say the province needs to induce a radical departure from conventional thinking on forestry funding. That will include assessing utilities and other resource users for the productive forest land they remove from the working forest and attracting industry to invest their own dollars in forestry activities along with government by creating short and long term incentives that allow the activities to pay for themselves. The Liberal government’s campaign promise to increase the allowable cut, market demands for quality wood and harvesting efficiencies, the need for offsets to future timber supply shortfalls, relief for hundreds of thousands of hectares of impeded plantations, reduction of wildfire fuel on the landscape, and ongoing requirements for biodiversity and habitat restoration all will require dramatically revitalizing the almost moribund enhanced forestry and ecosystem restoration program in the province.
Other priorities identified at the conference as critical to the immediate well being of the province’s forests and the forest stewardship industry include: reforms to the Employment Standards Act, integrating private wildfire contractors into the province’s protection program, bringing First Nations communities into the mainstream forest economy, reforming the Worker’s Compensation Board, reducing injury and industrial disease in the silviculture sector, maintaining the stewardship service competitive marketplace, and bringing federal involvement back to provincial forests.